The storylines coming into Sunday's game against the Cleveland Browns were this:
1) Johnny Manziel making his first NFL start
2) Jeremy Hill, promoted as the team's primary running back, had to answer for his comments after Cincinnati's loss to Cleveland
3) The Bengals defense allowed nearly 550 yards last week to the Pittsburgh Steelers
4) Cincinnati still feeling the embarrassment from their 24-3 loss on TNF
It wasn't even close.
By our count, there were six instances of the Bengals defense flashing the money sign. Wallace Gilberry did it twice while Carlos Dunlap, Brandon Thompson, Adam Jones and Rey Maualuga each offered one -- Maualuga's led to a taunting penalty because he flashed the sign in Manziel's face. The roles were reversed from the Thursday Night embarrassment and Manziel will learn that you can't make the same runs/throws that you could in college.
Cincinnati's performance on Sunday resolved two storylines:
1) Jeremy Hill was significant and the Browns couldn't respond to his comments
2) The defense recovered from their performance against the Steelers and quieted the Manziel hype
When Sunday's game entered the fourth quarter, the Bengals had six money signs and only allowed five first downs with no points. And by the end of Sunday's game, Cincinnati pitched their first shutout since Dec. 21, 2008, during Johnny Manziel's first NFL career start, and only allowed 107 yards and five first downs to Cleveland. And Cincinnati's greatest accomplishment could be on third down, allowing only one third down conversion on 10 attempts.
On the other side of the ball, Jeremy Hill was domination refined. The feature back generated 148 yards rushing on 25 carries, averaging 5.9 yards per rush and scoring two rushing touchdowns. Giovani Bernard added 79 yards rushing and 15 carries giving the Bengals 244 yards rushing.
The Bengals will maintain first place at 9-4-1 with a Monday Night game on tap against the Denver Broncos.
BENGALS STARTED ROLLING WITH HILL
If Cincinnati's game plan intends to highlight anything during the Bengals opening drive, it's that offensive coordinator Hue Jackson is going to utilize his running backs. Jeremy Hill opened the game with four straight runs, generating 24 yards rushing, two first downs and reaching the Bengals 43-yard line. A three-yard loss to Giovani Bernard (screen) and seven-yard cross to A.J. Green led to a third-and-six from the Bengals 47-yard line. Barkevious Mingo awards Cincinnati with another first down with a roughing the passer.
Unable to pick up a first on the team's ensuing third down, the Bengals went for it on fourth-and-four from the Browns 32-yard line with 9:31 remaining in the first quarter. Andy Dalton fired a quick slant to A.J. Green with Joe Haden covering, picking up 10 yards and reaching the Browns 22-yard line.
Dalton and Green convert a fourth and four with 9:31 remaining in the first. https://t.co/g6T7X4xoBj— Josh Kirkendall (@Josh_Kirkendall) December 14, 2014
Again the Bengals had third and seven from the Browns 19-yard line with 8:09 remaining. Dalton swung the football out to Giovani Bernard in the flats, picking up 14 yards with a personal foul committed by cornerback Justin Gilbert.
Touchdown, Jeremy Hill. Bengals lead 7-0 after 14 play drive touchdown drive. https://t.co/92JBYE1kxz— Josh Kirkendall (@Josh_Kirkendall) December 14, 2014
With Cincinnati now on the Browns' two-yard line, Jeremy Hill pounded the football into the endzone to take a 7-0 lead. The drive went 14 plays on 84 yards and consumed 7:07 off the clock.
Cleveland responded with a three-and-out, thanks to a stuff by Reggie Nelson on third and two.
Bengals force Browns to go three and out on opening possession. Reggie Nelson stuffed him short of the first. https://t.co/pgy0TzyiSN— Josh Kirkendall (@Josh_Kirkendall) December 14, 2014
Jeremy Hill and Giovani continue to generate significant runs, with Hill posting a 20-yarder and Giovani adding 14 yards. With the insane dependency on the running game, the Bengals return to the redzone but are unable to capitalize after Dalton takes a quarterback sack.
Mike Nugent converted the 44-yard field goal to give Cincinnati a 10-0 lead with 2:01 remaining in the first quarter.
Jeremy Hill gave Cincinnati a 17-0 lead on a 16-yard run with 13:11 remaining in the second quarter.
MONEY, MONEY, MONEY
With 1:10 remaining in the first quarter, defensive end Wallace Gilberry sacked quarterback Johnny Manziel on second down to create a third-and-13 situation. At the end of the play, Gilberry offered Manziel's money sign in response.
Wallace Gilberry with a sack on 2nd and 6 with 1:10 remaining in the first. Gilberry offers the JPP money s... https://t.co/wjQs46sT4u— Josh Kirkendall (@Josh_Kirkendall) December 14, 2014
KIRKPATRICK WITH A PICK
With 11:30 remaining in the second quarter, Dre Kirkpatrick jumped Andrew Hawkins' route and intercepted a Johnny Manziel pass. Kirkpatrick returned it four yards to the 33-yard line.
Dre Kirkpatrick intercepts Johnny Manziel with 11:21 remaining in the second. Reached the Browns 33. https://t.co/eZyQyU6Zd7— Josh Kirkendall (@Josh_Kirkendall) December 14, 2014
Unfortunately, the Bengals were unable to pick up a first down and were forced to convert a 44-yard field goal to take a 20-0 lead with over 10 minutes remaining in the second quarter.
With 6:36 remaining in the second quarter, Andy Dalton tried to loft the football to h-back Ryan Hewitt down the middle of the field. The extremely under-thrown pass, could have used a little more air and was intercepted by Jim Leonhard. Thanks to an illegal block, the Browns had the football on their own 30-yard line with 6:36 remaining in the second.
Dalton airs this a little more and that's a touchdown. Bad throw leads to an interception. SMH. https://t.co/JUf9S4zv88— Josh Kirkendall (@Josh_Kirkendall) December 14, 2014
REY MAUALUGA IDIOCRACY AND THEN NON-PICK
With 3:19 remaining in the second quarter, Maualuga deflected a Johnny Manziel pass near the line of scrimmage. Maualuga, excited about this accomplishment, got flagged for flashing the money sign in Manziel's face. Automatic first down. On the next play, from the Bengals' 49-yard line, Maualuga intercepted the football and returned it 33 yards. Unfortunately, a Wallace Gilberry offsides nullified the turnover.
By the two minute warning, Cleveland had second down and 13 from the Bengals' 28-yard line. With 1:17 remaining in the first half, Johnny Manziel scrambled and inadvisably launched the football into the endzone.
Adam Jones with an INT in the endzone with 1:07 remaining in the second quarter. https://t.co/frKnUsCnPj— Josh Kirkendall (@Josh_Kirkendall) December 14, 2014
Interception. The football came out to the 20-yard line to conclude the first half.
SACKY, SACKY, FIVE DOLLA
The Cleveland Browns opened the third quarter from their own 20-yard line. After a Terrance West four-yard run, Manziel was tackled for a no-gain by Wallace Gilberry (it appeared that the running back went the wrong direction on a designed run). Geno Atkins recorded a quarterback sack with 13:58 remaining in the third, pushing Cleveland to their 14-yard line and forcing the Browns to punt.
On the first play of Cincinnati's ensuing possession, Jeremy Hill found a significant gap behind the pulling blocks of Andrew Whitworth and Mike Pollak, gaining 21 yards to the Browns 42-yard line with 13:06 remaining in the third.
Pollak and Whitworth pull left to right, opening a gap for Hill, who gains 21 yards w/ 13:06 remaining in t... https://t.co/xzUI4GHT1M— Josh Kirkendall (@Josh_Kirkendall) December 14, 2014
Unfortunately, Cincinnati's offense stalled. After a two-yard run by Hill, Dalton took a second-down sack and threw a third down incomplete pass. Kevin Huber entered the game with 11:06 remaining in the third to kick his first punt of the afternoon.
Cincinnati took a 23-0 lead on another Mike Nugent field goal with 2:38 remaining in the third quarter.
The Bengals scored a last second touchdown on a Rex Burkhead run, giving Cincinnati a 30-0 lead with 30 seconds remaining.
REX!!! Bengals up 30-0 with 23 seconds remaining after Rex Burkhead TD run. https://t.co/4Nrn876qfD— Josh Kirkendall (@Josh_Kirkendall) December 14, 2014
- Vincent Rey took a shot to the head with 10:21 remaining in the fourth quarter. Rey was making a tackle on Isiah Crowell when Rey Maualuga collided with Rey, accidently giving Vinny a shot to the helmet. Taylor Mays replaced him. Rey was cleared to return with two minutes remaining in the game.
|CB Terence Newman||LB Karlos Dansby|
|TE Jermaine Gresham||S Tashaun Gipson|
|QB AJ McCarron||CB K'Waun Williams|
|DE Margus Hunt||CB Robert Nelson|
|WR James Wright||TE Gary Barnidge|
|WR Dane Sanzenbacher||RB Glenn Winston|
|OT Tanner Hawkinson||OL Vinston Painter|